Washington, DC—Strong support exists for Medicare coverage of drugs approved by the FDA for treating obesity, according to a survey commissioned by The Gerontological Society of America.

More than 2 years ago, the American Medical Association declared obesity a disease, and numerous medications have been approved as safe and effective by the FDA, yet the Medicare Modernization Act of 2003 still prohibits coverage of prescription obesity medicines.

Last year, the Treat and Reduce Obesity Act was introduced in Congress, requiring Medicare to cover prescription obesity medicines. The bipartisan legislation had 11 co-sponsors in the Senate and 125 cosponsors in the House.

Now, a new poll finds that 69% of Americans support Medicare coverage of prescription obesity medicines. In fact, 77% were unaware that that federal law specifically prohibits Medicare from covering patient costs for prescription obesity medicines, and 69% did not know that the FDA has found that current prescription obesity medicines are safe and effective in treating obesity.

Overall, 87% of respondents said they believe obesity is a problem in their state, and 71% said Medicare should invest in programs to reduce the rate of obesity.

“Public policy and society seldom associate obesity with advanced age,” explained James Appleby, BSPharm, MPH, executive director and CEO of The Gerontological Society of America. “But recent research has shown that, for those who are over 65 and significantly overweight, the risk of mortality is far greater that it is for younger individuals with excessive body weight. The preponderance of evidence is clear: Obesity at an older age carries with it a plethora of health problems like diabetes and heart disease and the likelihood of premature death.”

The poll was conducted by Ipsos December 9 to December 15, 2015, on behalf of The Gerontological Society of America. For the survey, a sample of 1,006 adults from the continental United States, Alaska, and Hawaii was interviewed online in English. The poll has a credibility interval of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points for all respondents. Post-hoc weights were made to the population characteristics on gender, age, region, race/ethnicity, and income.

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